Do or Die Project Management: Lessons Learned from a


By Elizabeth A. Rodgers
Booz Allen Hamilton

Maryland, USA


Projects take on a number of shapes, forms and lives of their own. Some are more successful than others depending on outside factors. The “Do or Die Project Management: Lessons Learned from a Zero-Day Project” project gets that name from the main feature of the project: the no float execution time. Execution time affected all aspects of the project including planning, execution, cost, risk, communication and closeout. The lessons learned from this project point to key factors, such as risk and communications management, which allowed it to be successful and points to factors that could have been detrimental. By examining these lessons project managers will be able to apply key insights to future projects that have similarities to “Zero-Day.”


The Zero Day project entailed planning an office move of all technical systems including desktop computers, telephones, peripheral equipment, televisions, network equipment, wires, cables, and servers and racks. The planning team was given nine months for planning the move. The goal was to move from Building A to Building B in three days.

This paper will review lessons learned about critical phases of the project, but will primarily focus on the execution phase and managing the communications of this phase. Questions we were required to answer included: What are the goals? What does it take to get there? What are the costs? Who will do the work? How will we know it was successful? What are the risks? What are the assumptions?


Planning is of utmost importance in any project. However, in the Zero Day project, because of the very limited execution time, the planning phase was imperative. Planning activities included: contractor meetings, moving companies, temporary help, facilities management for the current site, and facilities management for the new site. Our planning team was created immediately after the decision to move. With a limited organizational budget, our planning team consisted of support managers already in place, including the Office Manager, Facilities Manager, IT Manager, Library Manager and Security. The planning staff had to quickly become move experts and project management experts in addition to working our normal day jobs. The overall planning time was nine months, and included several additional vendors including professional office movers, ISPs, telecommunications experts, furniture vendors, and communications experts.


Communicate, communicate, communicate – with your stakeholders.

The critical planning requirements and tight, no float schedule required the project planning team to assemble an airtight communications plan for before, during execution and after the move. The IT Project Manager has authority over technology solutions, but little authority regarding users’ actions. This required the IT Project Manager to examine the most effective ways to communicate. The method of communication is just as important as the message. Understanding the culture of the audience and authoritative sources are critical. It is important to know the value of each stakeholder group, and your influences as a project manager at various stages of the project. Four general areas of authority that a project manager may or may not have include:


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 2nd annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA in June 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.



About the Author


pmwj39-Oct2015-Rodgers-PHOTOElizabeth Rodgers

Booz Allen Hamilton
Maryland, USA





Elizabeth Rodgers is an experienced and certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and ITIL Foundations professional with more than 20 years of information technology experience. As a Lead Associate for Booz Allen Hamilton, Elizabeth uses best practices and industry standards to deliver several high-level projects to federal government clients in the cybersecurity and law enforcement industries. She has proven qualifications in project management, service management, knowledge management, technology operations and process improvement with the expertise to consistently exceed organizational goals. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, an M.S. in Cybersecurity Policy from the University of Maryland University College, and is a Deloitte Cybersecurity Scholarship Award Recipient. Elizabeth Rodgers can be contacted at [email protected].